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Digital Backpacker 2000 #9

TIME : 2016/2/27 14:55:48

September 1st: Fly to the Moon
Medan is the third largest city in Indonesia. Most people use this town as an entry or exit point as it has few sites of interest. I stayed a little bit longer, discovered an interesting Chino-town and a kind of “little India” too, with temples to make you forget that you’re in Indonesia.

I stayed in a Muslim hotel and had a lot of fun there, all members of the family liked chess and I do too. Outside their living room we played for money and drunk beer when the mother was out of sight. Inside, when it was raining, the big mama didn’t allow us to “gamble”, as she put it. The only bad thing is that right opposite the Zakia hotel is the Mesjid Raja, Medan’s impressive black domed mosque. At six in the morning the Muslim chants would wake me up.

In Berastigi a dog attacked me while walking up Gundalung hill; “Please don’t hurt my dog!” shouted the woman, instead of calling the dog towards her. I heard about an Australian woman dying two days after she was bitten by a dog at Lake Toba. so I’d better avoid being bitten by a doggie. I don’t have any vaccinations against rabies in the Netherlands, most countries give them to long time travelers. It surprises me a little bit, just like the “lariam” they subscribe in the Netherlands for Malaria protection. It’s a strong medicine and it gave me such sweet dreams that I quit after the first one.

With Jeone from Durban, South Africa, I climbed the Gunung Sibayak. An easy climb according the guidebook, it should have taken four hours to reach the summit. Hmmm, with my great experience as a climber we arrived at the top after seven hours. Jeone is traveling alone like I am and she has had numerous problems with men while traveling, especially the Muslim men. I’d heard more women complaining about this, for Jeone it had gotten to the point where she was thinking about leaving Indonesia.

Of course I wouldn’t want to miss Lake Toba, the Samosir island in the middle of it is the size of Singapore. I thought it would be easy to get around the island on a motorbike, it wasn’t. I had to cross rivers on wooden bridges, sometimes on trees lying across the river. Fun! I was exhausted after eleven hours of driving but have seen so many things, Batak houses, graves, places far away from the tourist crowds.

Hiring the bike is another story. The vendors had raised the prices compared to last year by 100%. They formed an association and all charge the same 45000 rp, and they give the police 5000 rp of every motorbike that is hired. The police will take care that in case of an accident the foreigner won’t have that many problems. But I’m sure they will find a way
to get money out of the situation too. A policeman offered me ganja in Tuk Tuk, “Come to my office, I have 2 kilos there!” It was too ridiculous to even give him an answer.

The friendly girls at “Tony’s” invited me and two other tourists to a party with original Batak dancing. “It’s not the thing you can see in town, that’s for the tourists, it’s fake!”

They closed the restaurant at ten and we walked to the party. To my surprise a coffin was standing in the room, with the corpse of an 82 year old woman inside. The dense crowd was smoking, singing, laughing and dancing while in the corner a band was making music. The brother of the deceased was calling the grandchildren to join in the dancing. I was amazed.

“She was 82, had a good life, so why not party? When a young person dies we don’t party, we will bury the body after some days, not after five.”

What can you say to that?

The people here are very friendly and the cost of living is extremely low. I guess these reasons are why many foreigners are permanent residents here. My neighbour in the hotel rents his room for a $400 a year, he’s able to survive one year with nothing more than $1400. For that money, he’s spent one month in Laos, Thailand and Singapore too. No alcohol and cigarettes contribute to that amount of money!

Chris, another long term resident, is living in a traditional wooden Batak house. Inside he has a computer with internet connection, satellite TV and a modern VCR. He’s terrified by the idea that anyone will accuse him of working, there have been cases that the Indonesian “Immigrasie” kicked foreigners out of the country for working on a tourist visa. Also some “lovely” wives send them pictures of their husband working, hoping to get the guesthouse and restaurant all for themselves. They succeeded in some cases, I heard another story but more about that later.

The magic mushroom is another attraction in Tuk Tuk, every restaurant has them on the menu. It’s legal, weird because it’s supposed to be so much stronger than the illegal ganja. In Medan the children of the Muslim family told me enthusiastic stories about these mushrooms. “You can fly to the moon!”